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Family Firms in Hyderabad: Gujarati, Goswami, and Marwari Patterns of Adoption, Marriage, and Inheritance


Scholars are looking again at banking and mercantile families in India's early modern history, responding to the challenge issued by Claude Markovits in the epilogue of his 2008 volume,Merchants, Traders, Entrepreneurs, to “return the merchant to South Asian history.” Some of the underlying assumptions and questions being asked are old and some are new. My own longstanding assumption, upon which this article relies, has been that bankers and merchants played multiple and important roles with respect to states in South Asia, and that their relations with non-kin officials and other political actors determined their success or failure and sometimes the success or failure of a state, most notably, the Mughal state. Questions are again being raised about “trust,” assumed to be a leading attribute of and asset to financial networks (especially in long-distance trade diasporas), and the notion so commonly put forward by scholars to explain the success of Hindu banking and mercantile communities. Recent work by Francesca Trivellato has found that membership in the Sephardic trade diaspora facilitated but did not guarantee trust or cooperation: the Sephardic merchants relied on non-Jewish as well as Jewish agents and networks of information, and evolving legal norms guided their business activities.

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